Jared Sullinger is the most feared low post player in all of college basketball. He has incredibly strong hands, nimble feet and an uncanny ability to bring down rebounds in traffic.
Many believe that Sullinger is the one player that separates Ohio State from the rest of the remaining teams in college basketball.
Those people may be right.
Many believe that without Sullinger playing at his best, Ohio State can’t win the NCAA Championship.
Those people are likely wrong.
Sullinger is very good, but he is not the only reason why Ohio State is positioned to win it all.
Below are ten reasons for why Ohio State can win even when Sullinger isn’t at the top of his game.
First, Ohio State Coach Thad Matta is among the best college basketball coaches in the game.
In his first 11 years, Matta has won 20 or more games. Matta’s record at Ohio State is an astounding 190-56 and he has won more games at Ohio State in his first six years than Hall of Fame coach Fred Taylor.
Matta will have the Buckeyes well prepared and there will no sense of panic from the helm if the get another team’s best punch in a close game.
Second, the Buckeyes have four upperclassmen that provide experience and leadership that will allow them to weather any storm.
David Lighty, Jon Diebler, William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale have been through so much trench warfare that they will not be rattled if the game is close in the final minutes.
Further, they will provide a steady calming influence to the freshmen on the team when the Final Four crowd is in a frenzied state.
Third, Aaron Craft is a fierce on the ball defender who has a non-stop motor that allows him to defend baseline to baseline.
Craft, voted the Big Ten’s Sixth Man of the Year, can frustrate an opponent’s ability to set up their half-court offense and as a result the Buckeye can make several consecutive defensive stops to get themselves back into games.
Fourth, Ohio State has great three-point perimeter defenders that make extending a lead against the Buckeyes very difficult.
The Buckeyes have three tall and long athletic wing players in Lighty, Buford and Diebler.
The trio makes shooting three pointers against Ohio State no easy task and makes it very difficult to extend a lead against them.
Fifth, conversely Lighty, Buford and Diebler are great three-point shooters that can individually carry the team if they got hot.
This season, Lighty and Buford shot 44 percent and Diebler shot 50 percent from beyond the arc. Diebler also has the distinction of being the all-time three-point shot leader in Big Ten history.
No lead against the Buckeyes is safe.
Sixth, Matta has two great players in Deshaun Thomas and Jordan Sibert who know their role and are comfortable coming off the bench.
Thomas can come in and provide instant offense; he is averaging eight points a game coming off the bench.
Sibert has seen as much action as Thomas but his value as a defender is undeniable as exhibited by his play against Michigan in the Big Ten Semifinals.
While neither player can replace what Sullinger brings to Ohio State, Matta in a pinch could use Thomas and Sibert to pick up the slack in a game in which Sullinger struggles.
Seventh, every team needs a player who is willing to sacrifice their body for the team and Ohio State is fortunate enough to have two such players.
Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty are ready and willing to do whatever is needed to ensure victory for the Buckeyes.
Lauderdale with his 7-plus foot wingspan and his 255 pound body can do the dirty work necessary in the paint especially in instances where the officials let the players play.
Lighty with his quickness and speed can draw charges on the defensive end and he is always willing to stick his nose into the fray to tie up the ball.
Eighth, Ohio State is 8-1 in games in which Sullinger has been tagged with four fouls or in which he has fouled out.
Ohio State doesn’t relish playing without Sullinger but they have had success without him this season on the floor and they know there is no need to panic if he has to sit down because of foul trouble.
Ninth, the Buckeyes are unselfish as a team and they don’t need Sullinger to carry the scoring load.
On the season, Sullinger has only scored more than 20 points on nine occasions.
In the last five games, four different players have lead Ohio State in scoring. The one player that led the Buckeyes twice in the past five games is Buford.
Ohio State can win without Sullinger having to put up 20 or more points.
Lastly, Sullinger can still significantly influence a game by his mere presence even when he is not playing his best.
Sullinger has had moments during the season where he has not played his best.
However, because Sullinger is so adept at getting great position in the low post he demands double team attention which in turn allows his teammates to get wide open shots.
On the defensive end, Sullinger is an aggressive defender who can alter shots, force bad shots and create effective double teams.
Will Ohio State cut down the nets?
The fans in Columbus have to like their chances to hang an NCAA Championship banner from the rafters, especially since they know that they can win even if Sullinger isn’t at his best.